By Larry Burton
Most of the questions were about the defense after the Texas A&M game. It was not a defensive highlight game for either side to be sure, so we’ll jump into the questions.
Are we as bad as we looked on defense or was was A&M just that one a million team that made us look worse than we are?
Answer: Actually, a combination of both. Certainly Manziel throwing to a fast 6 foot 5 inch receiver over a 5-10 defender is a mismatch that will be won by the receiver if he and and the quarterback are both good and certainly that was the case for Mike Evans who alone had 279 yards of receiving against us. That was a mismatch we simply had no answer to.
The rush defense was good overall, giving just 62 yards to the running backs, but then Manziel ran for 98 on either improvised or called runs himself.
Alabama’s defensive backs do need a lot of work and they’re getting it. If there is an Achilles‘ heel in this defense, it is the secondary.
So to answer you question, yes at this point parts of our defense are that bad, worse than last season’s. But they have the talent and coaching ability to improve markedly before the LSU game and SEC Championship, so don’t count them out yet.
Why don’t we recruit more defensive backs that are tall? It seems every time a tall receiver matches up with us we lose the battle.
Answer: In Nick I trust. We’ve won three out of four national championships and have signed some of the top defensive backs in the nation over that time so he must be doing something right. But for a better answer, let me put it this way.
Saban is obsessive about defensive backs, he knows just what he’s looking for there. Height is not key, speed is. A cornerback must be able to have killer speed to cover ground and close fast while the ball is in the air. Some people think any receiver can be made into a defensive back and that’s not true. Corners have a different mindset and skill set that some receivers just can’t learn.
If a high school kid is fast, tall and lean, they tend to make receivers out of them, because points are at a premium.
Our best corner is 5’11” (Deion Belue) and the average height in 6’0”. We have no defensive back over 6’1”, but we have five pass catchers at over 6’5” like the player that killed us from Texas A&M, Mike Evans. These guys are tight ends.
However, our star receivers, Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood, DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell are just 6’1”, 6’2”, 6’0” and 6’1” respectively.
BTW, the “best shutdown corners of all time” like Deion Sanders and others were all 6’0” to 6’1”. It’s speed that’s the need, not size.
Which freshmen are contributing the most right now? I can’t keep up with who’s who as far as that, but I know we always have great recruiting classes coming in.
After last week’s game, you’d maybe give that nod to freshman O.J. Howard, who was the second best receiver in total yards with 68 yards. Tight end was a big need for us with the loss of Micheal Williams to the draft and Howard seems like he’ll be a key contributor there this year.
On the defensive side of the ball freshman A’Shawn Robinson, a reserve lineman, is 12th on the team with five total tackles and Dalvin Tomlinson has four.
We’ll also give Altee Tenpenny a shout out. He’s played in one game so far, had six carries for 24 yards and a respectable 4.0 yards a carry. Also freshman Grant Hill has seen some time and done well backing up starting offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandijio and Alphonse Taylor has done well backing up starting offensive guard Anthony Steen. This bodes well for Alabama since they could be losing Cyrus Kouandjio next year and will be losing Steen to the NFL. The “reload not rebuild” cycle at Alabama could just continue at these two spots.
There are also a slew of young freshman that have worked on special teams, but there always is on a Nick Saban coached team.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter